Woods pleased with ball-striking; 2 back in Boston

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 1, 2012, 11:34 pm

NORTON, Mass. – His work almost done for the day, Tiger Woods shook his head as he strode over the bridge in front of the 18th green at TPC Boston. He muttered something to himself, and then ripped at the brim of his white Nike hat, the way a pitcher does after surrendering a late-inning home run.

Moments earlier, from 106 yards, Woods had ballooned a wedge into the wind on the par-5 finishing hole and come up short of the green. Woefully short. Afterward, he grumbled that, “I know better than that,” and it took a nifty flop shot just to escape with par.

It was another frustrating result in a round full of them – or, you know, as much displeasure as one can muster during a 3-under 68 that left Woods only two shots back at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

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Indeed, save for that miscalculation on 18, Woods has continued to pummel TPC Boston into submission with a tactical approach that shows off his revamped and dynamic long game. Though it was a similarly impressive ball-striking display, he walked off the course Saturday with a score four shots worse than the day before, when he rattled off six consecutive birdies during a first-round 64.

Note the similarities between the two rounds.

On Friday, he hit 10 of 14 fairways, missed only two greens and required 28 putts.

On Saturday, he hit 10 of 14 fairways – a few of the misses by just a few feet – missed only three greens and required 30 putts. Dig further, however, and it reveals that Woods missed five putts inside 10 feet in a 10-hole span, beginning on the par-5 seventh. All but one of those putts were for birdie.

“You’ve just got to let it balance itself out,” Woods shrugged afterward, “because yesterday I made everything. Today was one of those days where I had some good looks, missed them, but didn’t feel like I was really rolling it correctly.”

As discouraging as that stretch was, Woods said something clicked after the 15-foot birdie miss on No. 13. Per usual, “I just got my lines organized,” he said.

At 10-under 132, Woods sits only two back of Rory McIlroy and one behind 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. Woods will play with Ryan Moore in the penultimate pairing during Sunday’s third round.

That test, strangely enough, will tell us more about Woods’ game than the 64-68 start. His 2012 season has demonstrated, in abundance, that he has no problem starting tournaments; in fact, his pre-cut scoring average of 69.65 is third-best on Tour.

Yet, for whatever reason – cold putter, nerves, fatigue, whatever – that superb play hasn’t translated to the weekend. (Or, if adapted to this rare case, the final two rounds.) Woods’ third-round scoring average (70.62) ranks 59th on Tour, which is fine, except on the final day he’s been even worse: 70.83. That’s 73rd-best on Tour, and certainly head-scratching stuff for arguably the game’s greatest closer.

Those weekend woes have surfaced in some of the year’s biggest tournaments, too.

His 75-73 weekend at the U.S. Open dropped him from a share of the lead to T-21.

His 70-73 weekend at the British Open prevented him from ever mounting a serious challenge.

His 74-72 weekend at the PGA Championship sent him skidding out of contention.

And just last week, his 72-76 weekend at The Barclays, one on of his favorite tracks (Bethpage Black), may have been one of the strangest yet.

That’s relevant now because anything less than another pair of red numbers here may not be good enough – especially with a frontrunner like McIlroy. Unlike Woods, the Northern Irishman has been at his best this season when the weekend arrives – ranking sixth and 15th, respectively, in third- and fourth-round scoring average.

Only one player stands between Woods and the leader, increasing the likelihood of another Rory-Tiger showdown – which, after playing together for the first time in a Tour event last week at Bethpage Black, feels a bit like a rematch in the BCS title game.

Perhaps because of TPC Boston’s favorable setup for long hitters, Woods has a history of high-profile tilts at this venue: a loss to Vijay Singh in 2004 that forfeited his No. 1 ranking; revenge against Singh in ’06 with a closing 63; and then a down-to-the-wire defeat to Phil Mickelson in ’07.

But if we’re in line for another star-studded matchup, it’ll depend largely on the state of Woods’ much-maligned flat stick. An answer should come by Sunday night. 

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

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Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."